There’s no need to remind Kyle Travis how many days are left until Georgia Tech kicks off the football season on August 31. He already knows. And the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder is ready to go.
The 2011 South Forsyth graduate and junior inside linebacker for the Yellow Jackets is all too aware of how the team started last season and wants to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
The Yellow Jackets began the 2012 season with a disappointing 2-4 record but broke out of their funk, winning four of the next five games before falling to rival Georgia to end the regular season.
Georgia Tech’s 5-3 conference record was good enough for third in the Costal Division, but the Yellow Jackets still managed to find their way to the ACC Championship Game against Florida State due to NCAA sanctions against North Carolina and self-imposed sanctions against Miami before a stunning 21-7 victory over the University of Southern California in the Sun Bowl to end the season 7-7.
"We knew what we could do," Travis said. "But when I went home for a little bit, people were in awe that we [beat USC]. So, I think it definitely opened the public’s eyes of what we’re capable of."
If the game against USC was any indication of how Georgia Tech will fare next season, then fans will be in for a treat. The Yellow Jackets’ defense, which returns eight starters from the 2012 team, played superb near the end of last season, as they shutout Florida State and USC in the second half.
Travis will start on special teams and will likely remain a backup at linebacker, but could challenge for significant playing time.
"I expect to definitely [play] special teams and then I just want to continue to grow as a linebacker," Travis said. "I’ve got a lot of good players in front of me and I want to just continue to keep working and grinding and just bettering myself."
"I hope to get out there [on the field] as much as I can. I think it’s going well. My spring [practices] went well and I learned a lot with the new defensive coordinator."
Travis has played under three different defensive coordinators since he joined the team. Georgia Tech fired Al Groh and his 3-4 defense midway through the 2012 season after allowing opponents to average 30 points per game. Secondary coach Charles Kelly then took over the defense and implemented the 4-3 before leaving after the season to take a linebacker coaching position at Florida State. Georgia Tech kept the 4-3 mindset and lured Ted Roof back to his alma mater to become the defensive coordinator.
"I like [Roof] a lot," Travis said. "He’s concentrated more on the players than what we previously had, which is good and is what we need. It’s actually more of a coaching [approach] than chalk-talk and on the board, so he’s helping us understand it more on the field instead of just in the meetings, which is what we all needed.
"What we’re doing now is really similar to what we did under Kelly. It’s a lot of the same stuff, just different terminology and different calls and stuff. So, we had a good introduction to it to the second half of the season, because it’s pretty much identical to what we’re doing right now."
With an offense that averaged 28.3 points per game and an improving, more experienced defense, Travis is confident the Yellow Jackets will surprise teams this upcoming season and touted they could even contend for a championship.
"We’re definitely excited," Travis said. "We’ve been working our tails off in the weight room and conditioning. Our conditioning has been picking up, so we’re all trying to get better —staying in the weight room after we work out and just keep working. I mean, I think we have a good chance this year of playing for a championship."